3 Examples of Love in Action
Love means many things to many people and can be expressed in many ways. Here in Israel/Palestine, we encounter hatred, fear and apathy far more often than their antithesis-love.
For this reason, we are offering situations in which we have seen love break through the hatred in the context of the conflict. This is about love in action, about putting aside misconceptions about “the other” and recognizing that they too are created in God’s image. Here are a few stories that motivate us to continue loving:
Y: The checkpoint is such a symbol of division and fear in this region and very rarely a place of love. For Israelis, it’s a symbol of fear because it represents their efforts to hide ”the other” and their fear of what the other side is capable of. To Palestinians, it is a symbol of the oppression they encounter each day and the restrictions placed on them simply for being born Palestinian. Not love.
However, one day when I had to drive through a checkpoint, I saw a religious Jewish family whose car had broken down just before crossing into Israel from the Palestinian areas (though controlled by Israel). They appeared to be settlers- modern religious, similar to the hilltop youth types that we see on the news, stealing land from Palestinians and provoking them into confrontations.
It must have just happened and they appeared distraught to get wherever they needed to be. What happened next was the most amazing, though! I saw a Palestinian man walking towards the checkpoint. I’m not sure if he had been in a car and had to walk through or just was already walking. He saw the family and began to help them. Even some of the soldiers at the checkpoint seemed to take note because it was out of the ordinary.
I don’t know what happened after I got through the line but it made me think: This man stopped and helped a family, knowing he would have to go through ten times the headache they would to get through the checkpoint. I don’t even know if he was repaid or recognized for his kind act...I hope so, but sometimes these things go unpaid. But I am confident that I wasn’t the only one impressed and maybe it even touched the hearts of the family being helped or the soldiers there.
Sometimes, love means getting past our own pride or offenses, our own generalizations and reaching out to the enemy, knowing we may not be given any honor or repayment. That is love in action.
I: On November 29, 2014 Israel's largest Palestinian-Jewish school located in Jerusalem (one of a small handful of integrated schools in the country) was attacked. Jewish terrorists set fire to a first-grade classroom, and scribbled offensive graffiti on the walls, likening Arabs to cancer, calling for death to Arabs, and an end to what they perceive as Jewish assimilation.
The overwhelming response of love and strength the staff and students at the school demonstrated was nothing short of impressive. Within a few short hours of the attack, students were busy painting and coloring large banners and signs to cover the graffiti stained walls. They replaced slogans of loathing with words of solidarity, proclaiming their will to continue without hatred, without fear. A few weeks later, after the first-graders returned to their newly-renovated classroom, they still processed the threat they faced just months before. As they did so, they planted flowers below the previously-graffiti stained walls, and held up signs saying “Yes to flowers. No to violence.”
I recently went to the school, surveying what remained of those destructive attacks. Areas where the graffiti could not be erased were white-washed. Some of the students scribbled little notes over the paint, symbols, words, demonstrating their resistance to hatred. These are the pictures that remain, a reflection of the students’ commitment to something different, replacing division with a vision of togetherness, hatred with a picture of love.
Bee: Standing in line for anything in Israel is usually a nightmare because people are impatient and they can get pretty aggressive if they are provoked. It doesn't take much to provoke them. Sometimes the line formed is not very visible and the norm is that you have to ask out loud ‘who is next?’ and you just stand behind the person who says ‘me’. If you do not ask, you get a whole line of people telling you off.
So today I was at the grocery store buying a few items. When I approached the cashier I got anxious because I only had a few items and each cashier was full of carts. I walked over to the express lane. There weren’t many people but there was this man with a cart full of items. I stood next to him and couldn’t help myself:
- ‘Excuse me but this is an express lane which mean only 10 items and under.’
- ‘I know but I have my reasons. It also includes other shoppers. Can you read what it says?’ The sign did say handicapped and the elderly but he didn’t have any external signs of handicap and he was in his 40s.
- ‘Are you handicapped?’
- ‘Yes, i am. I have a card to verify that. I know where I can and cannot stand.’
- ‘Ok.’ And I stood behind him a little embarrassed for being too forward. He then looked at my items and said
- ‘You can bypass me. You don’t have many items.’
- ‘No, it is ok. I can wait.’ I felt bad enough.
He insisted aggressively and i felt I had no choice but to comply.
- ‘So tell me, what kind of handicap do you have?’ I asked and then he just stared at me. He thought I was questioning his handicapness and so I quickly said
- ‘I am not trying to question you. I am curious. That’s all.’ His eyes relaxed and he answered
- ‘I don’t have any knee caps. I got implants. Many surgeries’
- ‘Were you in an accident?’
- ‘Yes, in the army. Thank God I have army health care and not national health care’, and he laughed.
It was my turn and as I was getting my groceries, I heard the lady standing behind the man tell him that this is an express lane and that he has too many items. I paid and before I left I looked at him and said ‘thank you again.’ He didn’t answer me or even look my way.
As much as this was a normal encounter, I did appreciate the man’s generosity, and to me this is an act of kindness that reminds me of the humanity in all of us.